Day 401: Studying Spanish at Sundown

Studying Spanish at Sundown Inn has not exactly been the perfect experience. This has really has bummed me out, because the family that runs the place is pretty great, the other students have been fun to get to know, and we were so looking forward to hanging out in one place for more than one week. But, my teacher, Luis keeps reading tons and tons of grammar lessons to me straight out of the book while I furiously copy down verbs and take notes on the many (many many) different irregular conjugations. The only speaking practice I seem to get is when I initiate a conversation by asking him random questions about himself and/or Ecuador. And don’t even get me started on my suggestion to read Aesop’s Fables to get some reading (and more speaking) practice in. Other students raved about their time and their teachers. But as the week went on, it became clear that we weren’t as lucky as the other students who were ecstatic with their time and Spanish progress at Sundown. To make up for our less than satisfactory lessons, Andrew and I hit the books hard every day after classes in an effort to walk away with something even if it was done by our own volition.

The biggest lesson that I seemed to be learning was how good our classes and teachers were at San Blas Spanish School (and cheaper, too). Speaking from experience, I’m completely familiar with teachers (cough, sometimes me, cough cough) showing up to class completely unprepared. However, I’m also completely familiar with how easy it is to plan a lesson and teach off the cuff. Maybe our teachers at San Blas planned every lesson perfectly before class. Maybe they didn’t. But they always came to class prepared with a plethora of materials. Experienced teachers have (or at least should have) a wealth of materials to pull from, be it vocabulary flashcards, grammar worksheets, finger puppets, you name it, an experienced (and might I add caring) teacher has it.

Luis didn’t even bring his own pen (or paper for that matter) to class.

“Maybe it’s because we’re used to teaching in Korea, where our students never brought pens to class, so we HAD to bring our own (and more) to classes…” Andrew suggested, but I wasn’t buying it. Especially after I found out Luis has been “teaching” for two years! WHAAAATTT???

Even though I’ve taught English as a foreign language for six years, I didn’t give too much thought to what I wanted out of my own Spanish lessons. This was a mistake. I naively thought everyone who taught a language taught like me, or like Andrew, or like our teachers at San Blas… Maybe none of us are perfect, but at least we’re all prepared to teach a student who knows nothing or a student who thinks they know everything. I didn’t realize studying at San Blas was exactly what I wanted until three days into studying at Sundown, when I realized studying with Luis was exactly what I didn’t want.

When we checked out, I talked to the manager about my disappointment. I even messaged the owner privately (in response to his response to my mostly very positive review on Trip Advisor – again, mostly because I liked the family so much) with suggestions for how to improve the quality of their lessons. I asked Andrew if I was being mean to Sundown. He thought about it for a minute and said I was just being honest. But between me and you (and Andrew) – I was brutally honest. Like so honest, that it’s quite possible the owner probably won’t appreciate my… honesty.

The thing is, I really liked Sundown. I wanted to love it. But I didn’t. Both the hotel and language lessons could have been awesome. Like the “I’m never leaving here ever!” kind of awesome. Maybe being honest with Sundown could help them become awesome, so other people would never ever want to leave. One can hope, right?

At least, that’s what I hope.